NEPA’s ‘dopest’ hip-hop artists to perfrom

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First Posted: 1/26/2015

So, how does a self-proclaimed “hardcore kid,” who cut his teeth in the heavy music scene, anchored by now-defunct clubs like Moosic’s Sea-Sea’s, come to fly the flag for homegrown, NEPA hip-hop?

If you’re Peckville’s CrimZn, it took a move out of the area to open his eyes to the genre.

“It wasn’t really until I moved to Philly and Birmingham, Alabama that I started taking hip-hop more seriously and started playing shows regularly,” said CrimZn, the stage name of Joey Cipriano. “So, after I moved back to the 570 I realized there is a pretty decent hip-hop scene here, so I got on some shows and it just went from there.”

Cipriano, along with the organizational collective Five Seventy Entertainment, is hosting a showcase of NEPA’s best rap/hip-hop talent at Lyrics in Carbondale on Saturday, Feb. 7.

“We’re a group of local artists bound together by the love of music,” Cipriano said of Five Seventy. “I was first asked to be part of it from my boy Gov. L from the local hip-hop group Vicious Fam; he’s a great friend of mine and a dope artist, so I agreed to be part of it and it grew from there.”

Since hooking up with the organization, Cipriano and Five Seventy have produced shows at area venues like Lyrics and Scranton’s Irish Wolf Pub. “Right now are goal is to grow and put on great shows for the people around here to see us perform our music live,” he said, “and, hopefully come out with some merch, albums, shirts, etc.”

Based on Cipriano’s word, the showcase at Lyrics is shaping up to be quite an event, with seemingly a little something for every taste within the hip-hop realm.

“We’ve got DJ Black Magic, who will be DJ-ing all night in between artists performing,” Cipriano said. “He is one of NEPA’s dopest hip-hop DJ’s. Then, you’ve got myself. Also joining me on stage is my girl Talia, and she always rocks out.”

Cipriano grows increasingly ecstatic with the next list of entries for the evening.

“Vicious Fam, who consists of Gov. L, Milli, and OV will be there,” he said. “I was hooked to these guys’ sound the first time I heard them live. Train 36, who is a mix of hip-hop and reggae with honest lyrics from the heart will be there, also Kurupt Mindz, who is an artist from Wilkes-Barre, and new member of the Five Seventy camp. More Problemz, our young bull, who is growing fast lyrically rounds it out.”

If that wasn’t enough, a few more acts were recently added to the bill just before press time.

“Styleon and Juke Drastik are in just to add some more diversity,” Cipriano notes. “They’re all hip-hop, but many different styles of hip-hop. They can all be found on Facebook, Reverbnation,

Twitter, You Tube, etc. The entire show will be hosted by DJ Black Magic and another local cat – Tony Marcus.”

Cipriano admits that Lyrics has been receptive to the idea of these hip-hop showcases; but perhaps not without the odd incident thrown in.

“A couple of times the cops came and told us we had to turn it down, but I think they just came through to check out the scene,” he laughed. “No one there does anything wrong and we abide by all laws and all that stuff. As far as the people at the venue, they have been very cool with us doing shows there, and they have been continuing to give me dates to book more shows. You will definitely be seeing more shows at Lyrics in the coming months.”

Cipriano does seek to get across the message, NEPA is ripe with hip-hop talent, and he said these shows are absolutely worth checking out. Within the context of the genre’s often violent back-stories, he said Five Seventy gigs will bypass any such drama and stay true to the pure artistry hip-hop allows.

“This area has so much talent it’s ridiculous,” he said. “People might even catch a spontaneous live freestyle cypher. We had this group of artists from the Bronx play our last event at Lyrics, and they called all the local emcees on stage and we all did a live freestyle cypher – it was definitely hot. And, I can say there ain’t no beef with anyone in our camp. As for others beefin’, they keep it on the mic. If anything, they will just diss each other on records. There are outlets for people to deal with their competitive sides like the 16-bar challenge I just hosted at lyrics with my young homie Kevin Parker. We plan on doing another one, so stay tuned for that.”

Cipriano goes a step further to address and clear up some of the misunderstandings often associated with hip-hop among those not in the know.

“If there were misunderstandings, I would say that people just don’t get us,” he said. “We are outcasts who turned to music to form our own community. Hip-hop has been mainstream for a while now, and I think there are just people out there stereotyping us, thinking everybody is out there gang-bangin’ and all the typical stereotypes you see in movies – it aint’ like that. Come out to a show, regardless of who you are, where you’re from, what color you are, gender or anything. I can vouch for everybody who rocks with us live – they are all friendly, kind, a loving community of amazingly talented people of all ages, races, and genders.”

Cipriano knows the power of his craft is something that can’t be denied and wants to impress this upon those who hear it.

“This music means everything to me,” he said. “It’s saved my life many times over, just droppin’ that next track that gives you that feeling – it makes you feel like you are leaving your mark on the world. So, even if you died tomorrow, there would be something left behind.”

For Cipriano, aka CrimZn, presumably like many of the other artists involved at the upcoming showcase, his view of life isn’t all “flowers and rainbows.” The live stage has been the best way to express himself, and free his mind of everyday troubles. He says he’s transformed onstage from a relatively quiet person into a commanding presence through the power of these “lyrical puzzles” he writes.

“Musical expression is, and always will be, an outlet for people like myself, to, in a way, self-medicate,” he said.